Five before Midnight

This site is dedicated to the continuous oversight of the Riverside(CA)Police Department, which was formerly overseen by the state attorney general. This blog will hopefully play that role being free of City Hall's micromanagement.
"The horror of that moment," the King went on, "I shall never, never forget." "You will though," the Queen said, "if you don't make a memorandum of it." --Lewis Carroll


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Location: RiverCity, Inland Empire

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The public has spoken on the "Incumbent Election Act of 2008" and it's just say no

"The Constitution guarantees life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I see no reason why gays can't pursue happiness through marriage."

---LAPD Chief William Bratton to the Los Angeles Times after writing a check for an organization campaigning against Proposition 8.

If you were driving near UCR and thought you saw some cows running around on the highway, no you weren't imagining things. Just a note to the news writer, "cows" and "steers" aren't interchangeable.

The speakers' cards implementation by the mayor was interesting to watch during the meeting. He's done right off what some critics have said that would happen and that's switch the order of cards received around to put the president of the Greater Riverside Chamber of Commerce in front during the discussion of the motion to among other things, raised the city's sewer rates.

Yolanda Garland, resident of La Sierra invoked the sewer fund, which has become kind of a credit card for all types of city business including redevelopment. It was depleted for a while and then restocked with funding from some place else. Now, sewer rates are going up, up and up.

The sewers have been long neglected but it's amazing how the city council and city manager's office could have come up with this Riverside Renaissance show and apparently forgot about rehabilitating the sewers. But it does make you wonder if history will repeat itself on the eve of another election year, with the sewer rate tier structure following in the tracks of the electric tier structure. This comes after people in City Hall said that everything was fine with the city's sewers.

Brad Hudson, city manager, claimed that not a penny of the sewer fund was ever touched as they investigated avenues for using it for redevelopment. It was never used for restaurant relocation or infrastructure maintenance. However, Hudson didn't mention those non-restaurant properties on Market Avenue which were purchased apparently using money from that fund.

The long-term saga of the city's sewers and here-today-gone-tomorrow sewer fund were both highlighted earlier this month. Good advice would be to hold onto an audio or video copy of this meeting because Hudson has put to words in public what he sees as happening with the sewer funds. As for the sewer fund, I'm sure it will see many more exciting adventures in diversionary spending.

Councilman Steve Adams wanted a break on the new sewer rates for developers building new housing in Riverside, a trend which slowed greatly with the implosion of the housing market, but provided a chuckle when he said he wanted to wait for comments from his colleague including one who works in the housing construction industry. What will happen is that it's the long-term residents who will probably pay the bulk of the cost as happened in the similar drawn-out drama involving the fluctuating electric rates during 2006 and 2007. Will the sewer rate hikes come back to haunt four incumbents running for reelection during Election 2009? We won't know until we get into the next election cycle early next year.

Councilman Frank Schiavone talked about the dead housing market which employs him and not surprisingly he spoke against the fee increase for new housing. He was also concerned that the action might send a message to small businesses that they're not welcome (as if threatened eminent domain hasn't done that already).

A public hearing has been scheduled for Aug. 23. They voted to pass it and send it to public hearing and then the mayor congratulated himself, the city council and the city staff on their excellent discussion.

The city council then moved on to the initiative which the Governmental Affairs Committee hopes to place on the ballot this November. As you can recall, this is also the initiative to change the city's charter to ban the runoff elections, to take it to the voters to "let the people decide" just one year after the city council had voted to send the current system passed by "letting the people decide". In the interest of democracy, one would think that the city would not try to shoot down the current system after one election cycle but to give it more time to succeed or fail.

Schiavone paved the way by addressing the concerns that this process was being promoted for self-serving reasons. That's not surprising because in discussions that have taken place all over that there's more to this latest move by Governmental Affairs Committee than first appeared and that's been a great concern of people with this process. The fact that Schiavone spent most of his time on the dais introducing this item defending his own position was very interesting and outlined what was to follow. Some say that politics in Riverside lacks sophistication but that person would be mistaken. And there's rarely a dull moment.

Then he mentions the runoff election in the past Ward Four election and what he doesn't mention is that many people stayed home in that election because their candidates that they voted for, the ones who manage to pull in at least 10, 15 percent of the vote aren't on the runoff ballots and they're not interested in switching candidates in some cases so they don't vote. But what Schiavone also forgets to mention about why other cities that select plurality are often much smaller, and then he cites a "study" where Loveridge picks five cities that are larger and smaller (and some of the larger cities which opt for plurality are some of the governments with the most problems including dissatisfaction with city officials including Bakersfield, Santa Ana, Modesto and Stockton).

Councilman Steve Adams said he felt the process was "absolutely necessary", words he invoked during the prior discussion on city sewers. Adams of course, saw his lead shrivel from the preliminaries of Election 2007 to Election 2008. Then he did his usual tiresome tirade against people who attend the meetings because after all, there's nothing worse than having to listen to people who question council moves and council votes for elected officials. The "same players", as they're called. And Adams accused these individuals of making decisions for the populace, not realizing that these individuals often listen to stories from city residents who can't attend meetings and come up to them in hardware stores, grocery stories, libraries, restaurants (including those who work there) to express frustration with how the city council members behave at city council meetings including some of their voting decisions. Some people believe that if they show up at a city council meeting and disagree with those on the dais, they'll be called liars or worse because they do watch the meetings on television. But some showed up anyway on an issue they felt very strong about.

Like tonight.

Then Adams invoked the soldiers and other military personnel in Iraq as reason to push a ballot initiative. It's disappointing to watch someone use the military and a controversial war to push a questionable initiative which would partly undo a prior system passed by an earlier "democratic process" which "allowed the people to decide" in November 2006. If the soldiers in Iraq are fighting for democracy, wouldn't they be fighting just as hard for the voters who passed the November 2006 ballot measure as those who might pass any initiative on the ballot this November?

Public comment should be interesting as Loveridge pointed out, "there's a large cards". And Loveridge perhaps seeing this has placed public comment after the discussion under the guise of "council comments" from those on the dais. Loveridge does make a comment that it's not possible to have at-large elections without plurality. Silence, as Loveridge hopes someone on the dais will speak up, no one does and thus we have, "speaker card" invokement.

As it turned out, public comment didn't disappoint and it didn't even surprise. It was amazing to see the looks of surprise on some of the faces of elected officials. If they were really in touch with their constituents and sought out their views on this issue, then the people coming up to the podium wouldn't have been the first people they would have heard from that this proposal wasn't the best idea. It's noteworthy that they took the comments so seriously at the city council meeting but these weren't isolated comments at all. They reflected views from all over the city expressed in the past few weeks.

Adams had derided people who spoke regularly at meetings and several commenters took him to task for that. It's comments like these among a host of others that make it appear that Adams just wants individuals including in his ward to just stay home and shut up. That's too bad, actually for democracy and all that.

Chani Beeman is first up and since she usually speaks last on issues, this is very unusual. Beeman criticizes Adams' "obnoxious" comments earlier and said that while she supported having proposals, she was concerned about the focus on the plurality. She recommended a workshop to discuss the different proposals and have a discussion.

Theresa Burkett, a voting resident, who is opposed to a charter amendment to change this process. The city council has constantly changed its mind on election processes during the past few years.

"Now the city council wants to put an initiative on the ballot to change all that."

She called for a public hearing with input from everyone as that would encourage democracy.

Richard Block, from the University Neighborhood looked at the 18-page report on this item and wrote a letter on "Friends for the Hills" and he checked the report later on the agenda, and found the report was now 44 pages. I wonder if that's the part where the plurality elections would be postponed until 2013.

"Where's the public notice, " Block asked.

He called it a potential violation of the Brown Act and said it was very poorly written. Most of the cities using plurality elections that are used for comparison are not charter cities and have at-large elections. Does Riverside want to compare itself with these cities?

The winner of plurality races would probably only have a low percentage of the vote and Block asked, is that democracy?

The mayor reminds Block of the red light and to wrap it up. It doesn't appear the mayor who's up for election next year liked his comments.

Jacqueline Krasnow, who attended the Governmental Affairs meeting didn't like the proposal and provided a scenario among three candidates who are close in the voting percentages and where someone with a low percentage getter could win the election. She pointed out that Adams said he got hundreds of complaints and in a city with tens of thousands of voters, many people weren't complaining. It's not fair for someone who gets 25%, 35% of the votes to be the winner, she said.

Theresa Frizzel, past mayor and city council member, spoke on the issue as well, breaking a bit of a silence at meetings. She said she brought a vast background of experience and authority to the podium and she has, narrowly avoiding becoming a city council member in Ward Seven by only 16 votes. She said that many cities wanted to emulate Riverside's own current election system. Elections where the majority rules, she said. She said the city is proposing a system that takes away that philosophy.

"This is not a fair and democratic process because it would favor an incumbent who developed a lot of name recognition in office," Frizzel said.

Frizzel suggested taking away the propaganda that's being thrown out there to push the incumbent. Stop using the paid assistants to campaign for their bosses on city money and time.

Yolanda Garland is adamantly opposed to the proposal including the $67,000 to pay for it. She was upset at the use of the manipulation of the charter to benefit one or possibly more people on the dais. In 40 years, she has seen city council members come and go. Good ones and ones with questionable agendas.

"We are not other cities," she said.

She reminded them of a historic event when people voted to amend the charter to favor majority elections of 50% and one vote to decide the elected officials who would represent them. She advised them to reestablish rapport with their constituents rather than change the election process.

"If the system aint broke, don't fix it," Garland said.

Mary Humboldt also spoke on the proposal about changing the charter to make the process easier for incumbents. She said there was a thriving democratic process in Riverside and doesn't want it to be taken away. She urged them to vote no, and keep democracy alive in Riverside.

A woman who didn't give her name said that she was opposed and that everyone said what she wanted to say already.

Steven from Ward One, spoke on the "no incumbent left behind" act and quoted Louis the XV. People in the audience chuckled at his question to the dais to raise their hands if they supported more runoff elections, because that would probably happen if plurality elections were instituted. And in some of the cities cited in the mayor's "study" on plurality, recall elections have defined them politically. Eliminating the runoff election would encourage recall elections because the winning candidate would probably receive less than 50% of the votes, creating a possible majority of anti-incumbent voters who could decide they didn't want to be served by the winning candidate for four years.

Priscella said she didn't feel that the proposal was the best interest in democracy bringing up how the plurality system will encourage minority vote winners.

"It should not be a small number who makes choices for the whole city."

Barbara Purvis, who's with the League of Women's Voters said she had read the 18-page proposal. No question that the cost of runoff elections and the process should be brought to the voters but with more discussion and fewer informal surveys by elected officials. Two-thirds of the candidates who won the initial rounds also won the runoff but the remaining one-third who were overturned by the runoff election represented a significant number of occurrences. She questioned the urgency of placing this item on the upcoming election ballot, was there a need for a rush to judgment. She recommended an ad hoc committee to research the process further and then bring it back for further discussion of the city council after holding public hearings.

Salvador Santana spoke about the Governmental Affairs Committee voted to approve a proposal to ban runoff elections. He said that Councilman William "Rusty" Bailey provided the wrong election at that meeting about statistics referring to turnout at elections including runoffs.

Judy Tennison, the president of the Arlington Business Community said that the sentiment among people is split. She didn't support the idea that plurality was the way to go and urged the council to send it to an ad hoc committee.

Jo Turner, from Ward Two, said she didn't know much about the issues before them but that they were bigger and she asked why was it coming before them at the end of July, just two months before it would be placed on the ballot. She also supported the creation of an ad hoc committee to research the election process further.

Patricia Vereal, life long resident of Riverside, said she just heard about it recently and that she felt the approach was "arbitrary, almost whimsical" and that caused concern for her. She asked if the runoff system is working, why are they changing it. She wanted to address Adams that she didn't appreciate his scorn at people who come to city council meetings. Patricia, don't worry you're not alone there out in the city who don't appreciate city council members behaving like children.

Ruth Wilson from the League of Women Voters where she's been active 54 years said that all the city officials sitting before her all got into office with the majority vote. She said it wouldn't be as comfortable if they only got 10% or so of the vote. She urged a "no" vote until they got more public comments from more people than just those attending the meeting.

Last but not least was Sandie M. from Ward Four who talked about the importance of this issue and she felt that they were taking it too likely. She was concerned about such important issues coming up during summers and holidays when most people were busy and then looking to other cities like sheep at what they were doing. Voting since she was old enough to vote, she said she supported the 50% plus one vote method of election, saying that elections could be "stacked". She spoke of the corruption all over and then said they're talking about democracy? The mayor tried to stop her from speaking and then turned off the mike. People still heard her and applauded.

The public comments expressed at the meeting are hardly surprising because they've been repeated citywide since the proposal was introduced by the Governmental Affairs Committee.

The city council looked a bit chastised on the dais but they recovered quickly. Schiavone said he was taking a step back and said he wished that these people had come to the Governmental Affairs Committee so that it wouldn't have gone this far, but this committee meets during the afternoon, during the week and is poorly announced ahead of time. You know what, if the council members on that committee had gone out and asked the public for feedback between the meetings, then they would have learned what they learned tonight and perhaps would have avoided the meeting. They wouldn't have even needed to send the issue from city council to Governmental Affairs if they had polled their own wards.

The word, "recall" attracted attention from Schiavone as it would any politician. Schiavone in his speech after hearing the public comment said he wanted more public input on the process. He was uncomfortable with moving the charter amendment forward after hearing all the public testimony.

Ward Two Councilman Andrew Melendrez spoke with several individuals from other cities, including Corona which wanted to reevaluate its process of plurality after reaching a population of 150,000. Melendrez spoke about voter confidence and it didn't appear to him that the individuals who spoke before the dais would have that level of confidence. The turnout might be low at runoff elections but there's very rarely a dispute of the results. He thought it might be a good idea to have an ad hoc committee or to take it back to the Charter Review Committee for further discussion. Melendrez said he would vote no on plurality and leave it open it for further discussion.

Ward One Councilman Mike Gardner who won his runoff election despite losing the first round against incumbent Dom Betro and he named a group of incumbents including "yours truly". He's had no one come to him saying that the system was broken and needed to be fixed or that changes in it needed to be made. Runoff elections don't have to cost a lot of money for candidates, saying he had spent $43,000 to campaign in both rounds of Election 2007 including the runoff.

He said that if you don't have the commitment and stamina to campaign, do you have enough of both to be an elected official. Gardner said he wasn't ready to put it on the ballot this November but thought having a committee set up for public input wasn't a bad idea. Ask people what they want, instead of telling them what they want.

Chris MacArtur, from the Fifth Ward, was glad to see "cooler heads prevail" and prevent the council for being known as passing the "Incumbent Protection Act of 2008".

"Elections are a grueling process to put our hats in the ring, but they're supposed to be," MacArthur said.

They test our mettle, he said.

A mollified Adams also backpeddled a bit at the group of people who appeared at the meeting even after listening to "hundreds of complaints" or now, "over a hundred people" which drove him to put the proposal before the Governmental Affairs Committee. He didn't support taking any action because "we didn't have the appropriate information" which is interesting considering his comments at the Governmental Affairs Committee meeting.

Councilwoman Nancy Hart said there were many reasons why people don't vote, as many people are new and don't know much about the candidates and the issues.

"Not voting is an option," Hart said.

She wasn't in favor of changing anything of the process except possibly to have a shorter period for runoffs.

William "Rusty" Bailey, the councilman from Ward Three, said he wanted to change the process to increase voting turnout but the reality is that attempts to continuously put it to a vote, pass changes and then put another initiative on the ballot will probably add to voter apathy. Bailey said that the longer the campaign is, the more negative campaigning candidates will face.

Loveridge espoused on how he favors runoff elections. His three choices were to take no action, set up a task force or to ask the Governmental Affairs Committee to set up the task force. Schiavone recommended sending the proposal to the Mayor's Nomination and Screening Committee which is basically the Governmental Affairs Committee plus Loveridge. In the meantime, one can ponder the so many different ways to stack an ad-hoc committee. Because as has been said, politics and governmental affairs are never boring in Riverside.

Melendrez recommended using the current system for the next election cycle before promoting any changes. The city council then voted on Adams' amended motion, 7-0.

Before all the dram, The Truth offered up an opinion by former Ward Three Councilman Art Gage on Operation: Reelection. Gage opposes the changing of the city's election format to ban runoff elections and opt for plurality and he explains why. Gage as you know, lost both the preliminary and runoff rounds of the election to William "Rusty" Bailey who wasn't far off the magic number of votes needed to avoid the runoff in a more legitimate way.

Kevin Dawson of Save-Riverside also wrote this op-ed piece on the issue and its impact on democracy.

Garland brought up the history of the police department being put together with bobby pins and chewing gum, in the wake of the continued staffing issues inside the police department involving supervisor positions. The city manager's office through Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis has said that the department is fully staffed. But is it in the wake of frozen positions including sergeants and a dismal fiscal budget picture?

In Riverside, relocating a business in the face of possible eminent domain is leading to one businessman challenging the city for shortchanging him in relcoation funding.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

"It's horrible," he said of the experience, calling it an example of how the city is unfriendly to small businesses.

The city's development director, Belinda Graham, sent Hickman a letter dated March 10 in which she offered him what the city believes the agency still owes him.

Both Hickman and the agency agree that he has received slightly more than $384,000 in reimbursement so far.

By Hickman's calculation, the agency still owes him $155,000. He had agreed on total reimbursement of $539,000 in September with the agency's hired relocation assistance firm. But the agency never signed the settlement agreement with Hickman for that amount.

The agency in March offered him $16,250 to bring the total reimbursement for which it says he is eligible to about $400,300.

"To me that's a broken promise," Hickman said. "They jockey numbers like it's nobody's business."

A Riverside County Sheriff's Department deputy faces domestic violence charges. Unfortunately, studies have shown that law enforcement officers are four times more likely to report engaging in domestic violence behavior.

The deputy threatened to kill his wife and then he added what he would do next.

(excerpt, Belo Blog)

He would cut her body into pieces, which he would put into an acid-filled, 50-gallon drum that he would leave leaking in the desert, according to court records supporting an arrest warrant.

Charming guy, isn't he?

In Hemet questions are being raised about the employment by the city of a spouse of one of the city council members.

With deaths involving trains going up in the Inland Empire recently, what's there to do about it.

Los Angeles Police Department Chief William Bratton is loosening the restrictions on how officers are disciplined for using excessive force.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

"I imagine a department full of thoughtful, creative police officers who aren't confused about doing the right thing because they understand the principles behind what is expected of them," Deputy Chief Mark Perez, head of the department's Professional Standards Bureau, said about the department's new approach to discipline.

Currently, an officer who is found to have violated department policies regarding a "categorical use of force" -- incidents such as when an officer fires a weapon, strikes someone in the head or causes someone to be hospitalized -- is automatically subjected to a formal review to determine what, if any, discipline should be imposed. Under the proposed changes, the chief would be allowed to sidestep that review and, instead, order the officer to receive training or some other less punitive result.

"The revised adjudication process allows the department to use whatever means are reasoned to most likely ensure future compliance," Bratton wrote to commissioners.

Commissioner Alan Skobin voiced support for the idea. He said it would help ensure that the labor-intensive, time-consuming discipline reviews were conducted only in cases in which discipline was necessary. He emphasized that the new rules would not make it more difficult to detect officers who used force too frequently since each use-of-force incident would be documented on an officer's record regardless of whether the chief called for a disciplinary review.

Other commissioners and department watchdogs said they had concerns about how the policies would be implemented.

"The proposed procedures are a welcome recognition that discipline alone is not a cure-all for strategic and tactical errors," said Merrick Bobb, executive director of the nonprofit Police Assessment Resource Center. "Care must be taken, however, not to diminish strict accountability for officer-involved shootings, and egregious incidents should continue to result in appropriate discipline or termination. Accordingly, let's reserve final judgment on these changes until we see how they work out in practice."

Speaking of the LAPD, the man who was cleared of criminal charges by a judge after a video showed officers discussing the engagement of "creative" report writing filed a claim against the city.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

Luis A. Carrillo, Alarcon's civil attorney, said Monday that he had asked the FBI in a letter to investigate the two officers who testified at the trial and a third who testified at an earlier court hearing.

Carrillo accused the Los Angeles Police Department of failing to properly investigate the alleged misconduct, saying that when internal affairs detectives questioned Alarcon's wife, they seemed more interested in getting her to implicate her husband in drug sales than in investigating police misconduct.

"I don't believe internal affairs is really searching for the truth," Carrillo said at a news conference in front of police headquarters downtown.

Carrillo said his client would not cooperate with the LAPD but would assist the Los Angeles County district attorney's office, which also investigates police misconduct cases.

"I think their badges should be taken away and they should be prosecuted," Alarcon said of the officers.

LAPD Cmdr. Richard Webb, who oversees the department's internal affairs group, said his investigators were taking the allegations against the officers seriously.

"We are going to do a very thorough investigation," he said, adding that privacy laws prevented him from talking about details of the probe. "Our intent is to make sure that no questions are left unanswered."

The officer in Charlotte, North Carolina who tased a man who later died has been suspended.

(excerpt, Charlotte Observer)

Police announced Wednesday that Officer Jerry Dawson Jr. held the Taser trigger until 17-year-old Darryl Turner fell to the floor during a confrontation at a north Charlotte grocery store. The officer later shocked Turner a second time for five seconds.

Turner, who worked at the grocery store, died from cardiac arrest. The autopsy showed the teenager's heart was pumping so fast and chaotically from the stress of the confrontation and the Taser shot that it stopped pumping blood properly.

“We have deep regret and sympathy for that family. Officer Dawson also is in a great deal of pain,” said Deputy Chief Ken Miller, who oversees training. “Nobody feels good about the outcome.”

Prosecutors announced last week they would not charge Dawson, and found his use of force appropriate under N.C. law.

But police suspended Dawson, a 15-year veteran, for five days without pay. They released a surveillance video from the store Wednesday and more details about the March 20 confrontation.

Should Fresno put an initiative to get an independent monitor on the city ballot? The mayor keeps suggesting it. The city council keeps nixing it.

The Nantucket Police Department chief wants to rehaul his police department.

The Washington Post berates what it calls "petty and pernacious" spying.

A sheriff in Maricopa County is the center of a racial profiling controversy.

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